Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI)

Interlending & Document Supply

ISSN: 0264-1615

Article publication date: 1 June 2002




(2002), "Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI)", Interlending & Document Supply, Vol. 30 No. 2.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2002, MCB UP Limited

Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI)

Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI)

Keywords: Archives, Journal publishing, Research

A new initiative to help provide free access to refereed articles on the Internet has received US$3 million in funding from financier and philanthropist George Soros' Open Society Institute (OSI). Launched on 14 February 2002, the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) will help scholars self-archive their refereed journal articles online and assist in the establishment of alternative journals that are committed to offering free and unrestricted online access to published articles.

To be useful, research must be used. To be used (read, cited, applied, extended), it must be accessible. There are currently 20,000 peer-reviewed journals of scientific and scholarly research world-wide, publishing over 4 million articles per year, every single one of them given away for free by its researcher, authors and their research institutions, with the sole goal of maximising their uptake and usage by further researchers and hence their impact on world-wide research, to the benefit of learning and of humanity.

Yet access to those 4 million annual research articles can only be had for a fee. Hence, they are accessible only to the lucky researchers at that minority of the world's research institutions which can pay for them. Even the wealthiest of these institutions can only afford a small and shrinking proportion of those annual 20,000 journals. The result is exactly as if all those 4 million articles had been written for royalties or fees, just the way most of the normal literature is written, rather than having been given away for free by their authors and their institutions for the benefit of research and humanity.

As a consequence, other researchers' access to all this work, and hence its potential impact on and benefit to research progress, is being minimised by access tolls that most research institutions and individuals world-wide cannot afford to pay. Those access tolls were necessary, and hence justified, in the Gutenberg era of print-on-paper, with its huge real costs, and no alternatives. But they are no longer necessary or justified, and are instead in direct conflict with what is best for research, researchers, and society, in today's post-Gutenberg era of on-line-e-prints, when virtually all of those Gutenberg costs have vanished.

The Budapest Open Access Initiative is dedicated to freeing online access to this all-important but anomalous (because give-away) literature, now that open access has at long last become possible, by:

  • providing universities with the means of freeing online access to their own annual peer-reviewed research output (as published in the 20,000 established journals) through institutional self-archiving; and

  • providing support for new alternative journals that offer open online access to their full-text contents directly (and for established journals that are committed to making the transition to offering open full-text access online).

It is entirely fitting that it should be George Soros's Open Society Institute that launches this initiative to open access to the world's refereed research literature at last. Open access is now accessible, indeed already overdue, at a mounting cost in lost benefits to research and to society while we delay implementing it. What better way to open society than to open access to the fruits of its science and scholarship, already freely donated by its creators, but until now not freely accessible to all of its potential users? Fitting too is the fact that this initiative should originate from a part of the world that has known all too long and all too well the privations of a closed society and access denial.

Source: Stevan Harnad, University of Southampton

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